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Postgame Report: Paul, Crowder, Ayton and Johnson on Suns’ series-ending win over Lakers

The Suns advanced to face the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Here is what Phoenix Suns starting point guard Chris Paul, starting forward Jae Crowder, starting center Deandre Ayton and backup forward Cameron Johnson said after their team’s 113-100 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs on Thursday night. The Suns advanced past Los Angeles and will play the third-seeded Denver Nuggets in the semifinal round.

Chris Paul

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On what it means to defeat the defending champions and advance to the next round:

“It’s good, man, real good. It was an emotional series. This team man, we’re a complete team. We’ve been through a lot our first year together. (Suns) coach (Monty Williams) getting his first series win as a coach, it’s big.”

On the emotions of getting his first series win in Phoenix:

“It’s a lot man. It ain’t no secret, I’ve won so many series in my career. So after Game 3 when we lost and all the stuff that was going on, I just kept telling the guys, ‘Stay focused, there’s no better feeling than that last 30 seconds when you’re dribbling the clock out in a closeout game.’ So we got a chance to get that feeling, and the guys worked hard. This team put in a lot of work, the guys that’s been here. (Suns starting shooting guard) Devin Booker, the guy that’s been here the longest, he done had a lot of hard seasons, a lot of tough L’s. And to see what he did tonight in a closeout game, it’s special man and I’m happy for everybody. But I’m more so happy for him that he’s getting to experience this.”

On how proud he is of the Suns’ younger players for maintaining their poise when the Lakers made runs:

“Man, I’m so happy. I’m so happy for the guys in a series where I wanted to do more, always did. But when you talk about, ‘next guy up,’ my teammates just always uplifting me. Like, ‘C, you got to be aggressive. You got to find it, you got to find it.’ So to know that we got through this series and we did it together as a team, there’s nothing like it.”

On a 7-0 run he orchestrated once the Lakers cut the lead to 10 in the fourth quarter:

“(Suns assistant coach) Willie Green came to me and told me, he was like, ‘C, in order for us to win this game, you’re going to have to impose something on this game.’ And I was like, ‘Chill, I’m trying,’ and he was like, ‘Well, you heard what I said.’ And it’s funny man, some years ago when I was with the (Los Angeles) Clippers, we was playing a Game 7 against the (Golden State) Warriors and Willie’s locker room was right next to mine. And he came up to me at halftime and he was like, ‘Yo, you got to be more aggressive.’ So it was almost like deja vu. We done fought so hard, put ourself in a position to win and I felt like I had to step up for my guys.”

On starting center Deandre Ayton and the Suns’ defense clogging driving lanes for Lakers forward LeBron James and others:

“It’s huge. If you done watch [LeBron] play over the years, when he got shooters, he’s so big and strong, he’ll just cross over and basically play bully ball and clear you out the way and he’s laying up or dunking or finding guys. So we just try to make it tough on him. He still got a lot of easy baskets but we just tried to be there for each other and DA, DA was a beast man. It’s almost like he was like, ‘The hell with the regular season, just let the playoffs get here.’

“So like I said, with the team that we got, I wouldn’t rather be here and win with a different group of guys. All these guys deserve it and I’m happy for them.”

On competing at a high level in the playoffs with the goal of winning a championship, which he has not done yet:

“I’m just built like that. I’m just going to keep going. Because one thing about this game, like I haven’t won a championship or whatever. But ain’t many people that know this game better than I do, guarantee you that. Guarantee you that, and I’m going to put the work in. I’m going to enjoy it with my teammates and we’re always going to fight. And I’ll always say, ‘We’re always going to have a chance.’

“You can be on a real good team and it can be like hell. You’re not even having fun but this team right here, it’s a joy to come to practice and be around these guys every day.”

Jae Crowder

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On matching James’ physicality in this series:

“We’ve talked about it — we got to do it collectively, but once you get that challenge, you got to make him go through your body as much as possible. Sometimes, he’s going to be successful with it. You got to tip your hat off and continue to do it over and over and over again. And I think as the series went on, he just wore down a little bit. A lot was on his plate and we just wanted to make it as tough as possible.”

On Booker’s individual performance in Game 6 compared to others he has seen in his playoff career:

“I just told him, ‘This is probably one of the top ones in my closeout games.’ When you look at Game 6, Game 7, it’s closeout time. So it’s definitely one of the top ones that I’ve been a part of in my career in a closeout game. I think Isaiah Thomas, when I was with Boston and he had a crazy one (53 points on the birthday of his late sister in May of 2017) too just like this. But him and Book, right there at the top with a closeout performance like that, with scoring the ball and keeping us where we need to be defensively, it’s definitely one of the top ones in my career. So I tip my hat off to him. I told him that too.”

On how proud he is of his teammates and their improvement in this series:

“I’m very proud. I’m very proud of how not because of their success, but because of how they responded to defeat and how they responded to letdowns and how they bounced back and stayed the course when things got tough, when we got down 2-1 and how guys still came in with the same mindset, same edge in practice and film sessions just trying to get better. And that’s all you can ask for in a series, young guys who haven’t been in the fight before, just stay the course.

“I think our guys did a great job, fighting through a little bit of adversity in this series and I think that’s going to help us with the next one.”

Deandre Ayton

NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

On keys in facing the Denver Nuggets in the next round:

“Key to the series is sticking to what we do. Defense is what creates our offense and we know it’s going to be a different team, different style of play. But we can’t change what we do and we can’t revert from being boys, the way how we did in the first series.”

On Booker’s play in Game 6 and throughout the series:

“I’m sometimes speechless. When he’s scoring so big in halves and quarters — even like how he did today, I think he scored 19 points in a quarter. I was on the bench watching and I was like, ‘Dude, this has to be some type of history this dude’s making.’ Scoring like this, and I feel like he doesn’t miss sometimes. It was just great to experience all of this, to be honest. I’ve seen him go to another level with my own eyes, and just seeing him and being a part of that is actually amazing, just being a part of legacy.”

On strong performances from himself, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young and others from the 2018 draft class this postseason:

“I think it’s the best class in NBA history. That’s how I feel, it’s a lot of us man. It’s a lot of us and there’s still more to go, still more guys to go in this class to reach their limit and their potential. But guys like Luka, (Nuggets forward) [Michael Porter Jr.] and Trae, it’s been great to watch us young guys go at it, man. We’re not backing down, it’s the new generation of the league. So we got to play hard.”

Cameron Johnson

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On defeating the defending NBA champions in his first career playoff series:

“It was a lot of fun. A challenge for sure, it was a big series to start off my career in the playoffs and a lot of our young guys’ careers in the playoffs. But we learned a lot, had a lot of fun. I got a lot of love for our group and how we compete, and that’s what it came down to at the end of the day.”

On the emotions of the series win:

“I’m going to speak for myself here, but you hear the noise going into this series and people kind of counting us out a little bit. So you take that to heart and you just want to go out there and compete, and we want to compete for each other. So the emotion, it’s an emotional thing. But we got to focus right back, we got another series coming up.”

On how his nose is after getting hit in the face from Lakers forward Markieff Morris in the third quarter:

“It’s a little tender, I’m going to be honest. Didn’t bleed too much, just was annoying in the moment. You break a nose (he did in April) and anybody who’s broken a nose I guess can attest, if you get hit in it hard again within the next couple weeks, couple months, you’ll feel it. So I just felt it but I didn’t break it again or anything. So I’m alright.”

On Crowder breaking out of his shooting slump late in the series:

“The struggles don’t mean anything. Sometimes, it happens but obviously, there’s a lot of faith in him as a shooter and every time he shot the ball today, it looked good. Even the ones he missed, he didn’t miss many of them. That’s what he’s brought with us all season, and he’s more than capable of that every night. So those early struggles just meant he was due for big ones and he gave us some big performances these last two games, last three games. That was super important to our success.”

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